Tag Archives: Running

Life is like an interval run

My run yesterday morning began with seven minutes of low-grade torture. It wasn’t like a near-drowning experience at the hands of a CIA operative, but it generally sucked (as in “I repeatedly sucked air into my half-deflated lungs”) and I began planning how to cut my workout short.

I was embarking on what’s normally my favorite interval run, the 7654321 workout which meant six more intervals of running six minutes, five minutes, four minutes, etc.

I toughed through those long seven minutes and walked briskly for three-and-a-half minutes, marveling at the nice weather. For the first time this month, I was able to take it easy for a few minutes without freezing my tush off.

Then I began my six-minute interval and noted how I was still going uphill and now the wind was in my face. Figures, I thought, that my longest intervals are the hardest part of the route. [My route, by the way, was my choice. No one twisted my arm to run uphill. Downhill options exist just a block from my house. I was the idiot who chose to do it the hard way.]

Ah, then came a three-minute interlude of brisk walking. Good.

The end of my five-minute interval  ended at exactly the highest point in my route. The rest of the way was downhill I noted as I surveyed the village below. And the wind was at my back.

And then I began to realize my morning run was a metaphor for my life so far.

At 48, I’ve finally figured out that choosing the easy way is easier. [Took 48 years for that brilliant revelation. Every single decade, I look back at my 10-years-younger self and think, I was such a dope 10 years ago. I’m so much smarter now. Now, at least, I realize my 10-years-older self will still be saying the same thing.]

Those running intervals are getting shorter. And, with a bit of experience and oxygen in my veins, I’m getting faster. And the world seems to be working with me instead of against me.

By the time I got to my three-minute running interval, I literally felt like I was flying. A little bit. My pace had picked up. I was running downhill. The wind was carrying me along instead of spewing in my face. I was floating for a millisecond on every step, gaining an extra inch with every stride. I was airborne!

That’s how my life is some days. Buoyant. I’m married to an amazing man of big adventures. I am doing good, important, creative work. My car functions, the economy is improving, and I’ve avoided having to shop at the local detestable supermarket for more than a year. Hey, I’m within five pounds of my ideal weight. The small things count in the big picture. I’m experiencing a runner’s high of life right now.

My two-minute and one-minute running intervals quite literally flew by. Poof! My morning workout was done.

Not so bad for a run that had me so demoralized in the beginning that I considered not finishing it.

Kinda like life.

Done is better than perfect

I ran today. It was short. I wasn’t fast. I should have gotten sweatier. Instead, I perspired enough to require a shower, but not enough to really feel like I accomplished anything.

I couldn’t run this morning because heavy rain was falling at 6 a.m. So I made coffee and “wrote” (really, I reread what I’d written on my work-in-progress last week, tweaking a few words). By the time my cup was empty, it was time to turn to work.

When the clock struck 2, I’d had enough with proofing and writing catalog copy and reviewing contracts. My stomach was just the right amount of empty without growling yet for the next meal.

So I ran. In the middle of the afternoon. Under gray skies.

Slowly. A couple of walking intervals. Thirty minutes.

It wasn’t pretty but I did it.

“Every day that I run, I’ve won over my bad side, the side that says, ‘Skip it.'”

~ Chris Herren in next month’s Runner’s World

Woman who runs warms up to ‘Mile Markers’ book

Reading author Kristin Armstrong’s “Mile Markers: The 26.2 Most Important Reasons Why Women Run” was like one of my morning jogs: I started out hating it, then began warming up to it, and when I was done, I felt so much better for sticking with it.

mile markersArmstrong, a contributing editor at one of my favorite magazines Runner’s World, came out with “Mile Markers” in 2011. It’s a compilation of her Mile Markers blog entries, arranged thematically. It’s easy to read (I read most of it on the stepmill at the gym) because of the bite-sized chunks, but make no mistake, some of her morsels are like steak — they require chewing on and savoring.

If you’re a runner, you can appreciate how some aspect of running can be used as a metaphor for almost everything in life (including a book review, see above). If you run, even a little, you’ll appreciate the depth of this book. If you’re a woman, you’ll like it even more.

Some of her early chapters are “Friendship,” “Play,” “Mothers” and “Kids.” These were my least favorite entries because A. I run alone and B. I’m not a biological mother (and even as a stepmother, I never cared for little kids). Mothering is not my thing. But if it’s your thing, you might appreciate these chapters more than I did.

I liked Armstrong’s thoughts on “Body,” “Freedom, “Purpose” and “Passion” among others. Here’s an excerpt on peace, written in the list style with which Armstrong excels:

“Peace can be as elusive as love when we pursue it with ravenous need. We need to ease into it, recognize it, cajole it, make space for it, and welcome it. Most of us, most of the time, go through life with a vague restlessness, a lack of peace that goes unnamed and unresolved. …

“Some of us find peace through cultivating stillness. Others have to work our way there through movement. Some need silence. Others need the right kind of noise. Some need to be alone. Other need to be with specific people. Some need to cloister themselves inside. Other will never find it unless they are out in nature. What you need isn’t nearly as important as knowing what you need.”

Besides her writing style, I also liked how she organized her book. Her blog entries might be disparate if read chronologically, but arranged thematically, they sing. She finds 26 themes relating to running and an epilogue — a beautiful tribute to the marathon distance.

“Mile Markers” inspires. Even though I have no intention of running another marathon, Armstrong made me want to run harder and faster and sweatier. And be completely immersed while I do it.

Nothing so inviting as sunshine on the sidewalk

running picture

Yes, we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go.

~ Shel Silverstein
author of Where the Sidewalk Ends

Pastor’s finish line

Just five months ago, I met Pastor Gleason for a run around Hampshire, and he mentioned he was seeing a doctor the next week.

“I found blood in my urine,” he said. “But I’m feeling good enough for a run.”

We began, as always, with a short prayer during which he asked for safe passage on the streets. I told him we’d take it easy but to do that wasn’t sacrificing anything for me. This man, at 59, could run 7-minute miles when he wanted to, so sticking to my 11- or 12-minute pace was literally a walk in the park.

Pastor always slowed his pace for me when we ran together once or twice a month as part of the church’s Walk R Run club. Usually, we were joined by walkers so I had him to myself for 40 minutes to chat about running, religion, the news or our families. On that run, I talked about my book, which was about to come out, and he talked about his brother, who had died recently.

After we finished and we were downing bottles of water while I stretched my calves in the parking lot, I wished him luck with the doctor and we parted.

It was our last Walk R Run club outing.

The blood in his urine turned out to be a symptom of kidney cancer. Pastor died yesterday.

I wrote about him last month here when he appeared briefly at church for a baptism. I had hoped it was a good sign, but I could see aggrieved concern in his wife’s eyes.

I will miss him for so many reasons. I enjoyed running with him and hearing about his marathon goals. He also supported my writing; he was a regular commenter on Minnesota Transplant. And he was a good pastor to me.

I will always be grateful to him for welcoming us into his church even though he knew my Beloved and I were “living in sin.” He wasn’t judgmental like that. He married my Beloved and me, and he confirmed my stepson.

He once commented here that his favorite Bible verse was John 8:12:

 “I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”

If Pastor had penned John’s line, it might have been “run” instead of “walk.” In any case, he was traveling in light.

When I was in fifth grade, another pastor of mine died of cancer. I remember being impressed with the church filled to capacity, and I remember singing the hymn “I Know That My Redeemer Lives.” At 12, I thought it strange to sing such a joyful song at a funeral, but I now realize how appropriate an Easter message was:

He lives and grants me daily breath;
He lives, and I shall conquer death;
He lives my mansion to prepare;
He lives to bring me safely there.

I’ve thought of “I Know My Redeemer Lives” as I mourn Pastor, too. God always protected us runners on the roadway, and I’m confident He prepared safe passage for Pastor Gleason on his final journey.

Oh, my aching feet

I can’t believe, of all the ways my body can fall apart as I age, it’s going to be my feet.

Regular readers may recall me complaining about an irksome case of plantar fasciitis that required me to cut back on my weekly mileage and, yawn, stretch regularly.

What a boring malady.

This week, my toes are numb.

If they got they way from excessive curling, you can bet I wouldn’t be complaining about it in a public forum, but no, they’re numb, I suspect, because I ran 5.4 miles on Tuesday.

Oh, it felt to so good to run so far. I tried it just to see if I could do it after witnessing that 10K last Saturday, and lo and behold, I still have long distances in me.

But two of my toes are numb. And they’ve been that way since Tuesday.

Google diagnoses Morton’s neuroma. The internet prognosis? “Nonsurgical treatment does not always improve symptoms. Surgery to remove the thickened tissue is successful in about 85% of cases.”

Ahem. Surgery.

I saw a little boy today (yes, brief change of subject, but it’s relevant — stay with me), and he was enthusiastically sweeping a garage. At first I thought he was a midget (what kid sweeps with enthusiasm?) but when he was done, he propped the broom in the corner and skipped — skipped — across the clean floor.

The skip gave him away as a child. Adults. Don’t. Skip.

Old people walk slow, shuffle, keen side-to-side, avoid walking altogether because it hurts — somewhere — to walk normally.

It’s going to be my feet that have me waddling into old age.



Happened by a 10K in progress yesterday, and I thought, “That looks like fun.”

Me. Thinking a running race looked like fun.

Never would have said that seven years ago when I started running, just about this time of year. I’m been reading Runner’s World magazine long enough now to see the “Newbie” transform himself into a half-marathoner. And here I am thinking I should find a race and run in it.

Just for fun.

My enthusiasm this morning, when I was laced up and actually running in a cold rain instead of watching other people run, was dampened (excuse the pun). But still.

If living longer is the prize, turtles win

Everything in moderation, it’s said. Even running.

Researchers at the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health and other institutions, I read in today’s Star Tribune, combed through the records of more than 50,000 U.S. adults and determined joggers who ran fewer than 20 miles a week live longer than:

  • Non-runners (aka couch potatoes — no news here).
  • Runners who go farther than 20 miles a week (those crazy lunatics).
  • Runners who run faster than 7 miles per hour (hares, do you hear this?).


OK, you can find (or manufacture) research to justify just about anything (including drinking more than six cups of coffee a day, fathering children late in life and eating Subway sandwiches twice a day), but this is the kind of research I love. Because I run really ridiculously slow.

The researchers defined joggers as those who ran 10 or 11 minutes per mile. Lately, 11-minute miles on my morning jog have been impressive.

Holy cowloney, it’s been hot. That’s my excuse. Age has nothing to do with it.

In any case, slow going will keep me alive longer.

Good thing. Moving so slowly means my runs are longer. So I’ll take all the time I can get.

This resolution is a stretch

No round of New Year’s resolutions is complete without an intention to lose weight or exercise more, right?

Isn’t that what everyone resolves on Jan. 1? It would seem so by the increase in volume at the local Snap Fitness.

I gained three pounds (which might be accounted for by an overly salty Chinese take-out meal or a big bowl of pasta for dinner) and I covered 1,005 miles in 2011, so I’m not too keen on losing weight or exercising more (how do I know I went 1,005.62 miles in 2011? Attribute that to a Garmin accurate to a hundredth of a mile and an obsessive streak of recording it; I just love my runner’s journal).

OK, enough with the obsessive detail, Minnesota Transplant. Sheesh.

I’m not resolving to exercise more, but I do, however, resolve to exercise differently:

I hereby resolve to stretch after every run.

My sciatica is acting up (do I sound like an old man?) and I think it may have something to do with the fact that my hamstrings are tighter than a 20-year-old’s creamy skin (oh, when you’re 20, you have no idea your skin is in the best condition it’ll ever be). And those hamstrings may be tight because, oh, I never stretch.

I used to do yoga regularly, and I’m thinking I could use a few more up dogs in my routine.

And so, in addition to making a comfy nest and embracing technology, I resolve to stretch.

Oh, and one more thing. If you’re into my annual new year’s resolutions, check it out here.

Tomorrow, we’ll wax nostalgic for the old year passed.

DIY remedies might relieve foot pain

  • Golf ball.
  • Frozen bottle of water.
  • Copious amounts of fish oil.
  • Kitchen magnets.

All remedies prescribed today for what I believe is plantar fasciitis in my left foot.

At first I thought only professional baseball players got such exotic maladies.

Nope, not that exotic. Not just baseball players.

Then I thought my feet hurt because I waited too long to replace my running shoes.

That might have exacerbated the situation, but new shoes haven’t diminished the pain.

So I have to take drastic action.

Well, it’s “drastic” if you consider massaging my foot with a golf ball twice a day to be drastic.

Hey, it’s worth a shot. At least I wasn’t told to lay off the running. Or amputate.

Now that would  have been drastic.

Instead, a comedic assortment of MacGyver-like materials might provide the answer.

That would be elegant.